Virtual technology and solutions based on the intelligent interaction between people and IT devices enable new ways of doing things while creating new business possibilities. In the new applications, virtual technologies are used for business rather than entertainment. The technology under development in a joint project by VTT, IBM and Nokia allows the use of avatars, or virtual characters, in, for example, work meetings.
VTT, IBM and Nokia Research Center are jointly developing the ACME system (Augmented Collaboration in Mixed Environments), which allows the inclusion of avatars in the actual conference room, viewing and moving objects in the virtual environment in a new way, and mirroring gestures and motions as events in the virtual world.
ACME utilises ordinary web cameras for the recognition of body language, gestures and speech, moving objects and controlling the virtual characters, or avatars. The system was built on open source code solutions from Linden Labs’ Second Life virtual environment, the open source ARToolkit software and the OpenCV library toolkit. The use of open source components lowered development costs and enabled the participation of more programmers and software developers.
The new technology is expected to offer a more affordable, efficient, interactive and eco-friendly alternative to traditional meetings, telephone and video conferences and on-screen meetings. The ACME prototype has been installed in IBM’s research unit in Austin, and Nokia’s research centre in Tampere for testing and development. The system was also demonstrated at the International Symposium on Augmented and Mixed Reality (ISMAR) in Orlando and IEEE Virtual Reality conference in Waltham, Massachusetts.
Aller Media has used the Augmented Reality (AR) technology developed by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland in TV magazines. Readers of “Katso” and “7 päivää” magazines who have a webcam and a PC suitable for 3D game graphics can bring the animated Dibidog alive and transform it to a 3D character. Created by Finnish and Chinese children, Dibidogs are animated puppies whose adventures have been seen on channel MTV3 from 2 April.
In the application, an animated 3D Dibidog called Viki appears on top of a marker on a page and acts and reacts in different ways based on the movement of the webcam, e.g., by jumping, rolling and growling. The likeable puppy will always look at the camera which creates the impression that it knows that the user is there. A marker printed on a magazine can be copied and enlarged on a piece of paper which enables the user to play and interact with the Dibidog in a larger space. To use the application, the user needs to have a Windows PC which is suitable for 3D games and has a webcam. The user downloads the application from the URL specified on the magazine and installs it with a few clicks of the mouse.
Initially, the results of the programme will benefit ICT products and the service industry, telecom operators and software companies. In the next phase, the results will be used by services such as the retail, logistics, maintenance, fitness and health sectors, as well as facility management. Government, infrastructure and manufacturing and process industries will also benefit from the results.
VTT is developing services based on ubiquitous computing for the needs of ICT industry and service business. The development is based on a vision of a world in which we are constantly connected to information networks and a constant stream of digital information is provided around us. Equipment and devices communicate via wireless connections and adjust their settings automatically. The number of different information networks will increase and they will work seamlessly together. Users can access information at any time and via the most suitable channel. Virtual technology also helps crating a new type of connection between the physical and digital world.
Virtual technology and solutions based on the intelligent interaction between people and IT devices enable new ways of doing things while creating new business possibilities. The key technologies are local wireless communication, networks of sensors, actuators and intelligent objects, context awareness as well as novel user interaction methods. These developments will drive a change in ICT comparable to the change brought on by the Internet. Challenges to be tackled include interoperability, new user interface paradigms as well as creating, demonstrating and piloting new services and products.
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